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EPA fines Nutrien Ag $668,100 over misuse of dicamba

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This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency penalized Nutrien Ag Solutions amid allegations of applying dicamba illegally on farms in Kansas during the summer of 2020. 

The EPA says that the pesticide was canceled by the federal government and that Nutrien applied it “in a manner inconsistent with the products’ labeling.” The Colorado-based company, which sells, distributes, and applies pesticides mainly for farming operations, will pay $668,100.

“It’s critical that pesticide applicators follow labeling requirements to prevent off-site movement of pesticides that can damage non-target crops,” said Acting EPA Region 7 Administrator Edward H. Chu. “This enforcement action demonstrates the Agency’s commitment to ensuring the safe use and distribution of pesticide products.”

Dicamba is a valuable pest control tool that farmers nationwide use during the growing season. However, four environmental activist groups — National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, and Pesticide Action Network North America — filed the lawsuit in 2018 in an attempt to force the EPA to cancel the approval of the weed killers, claiming volatility to surrounding crops and wildlife. 

In 2020, EPA canceled the use of certain pesticides containing the active ingredient dicamba in the middle of the growing season, in response to the Ninth Circuit Court order vacating the registration of those pesticides. The Court cited that dicamba could drift onto neighboring crops and damage them during high winds. In its cancellation order, EPA said that farmers could use their existing stocks of three pesticides containing dicamba until July 31, 2020, but that applicators must adhere to all product labeling requirements.

According to the EPA, Nutrien Ag Solutions violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act when it allegedly used two dicamba products in a manner inconsistent with the approved label on at least 27 occasions, in violation of the Agency’s cancellation order. Further, EPA alleged that the company violated the law on 33 occasions when it applied other dicamba products on multiple Kansas farms during periods of high wind speeds in violation of pesticide label requirements.

Although Nutrien Ag Solutions has yet to release a statement, they have taken steps to address the alleged violations. According to the EPA press release, Nutrien is conducting trainings on pesticide applications, working with pesticide applicators to comply with label and other requirements, and improving its recordkeeping practices.

Earlier this fall, U.S. EPA administrator Michael Regan spoke at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s annual meeting. When asked about the future use of dicamba, Regan said he is “extremely concerned” about reports of dicamba potentially doing harm. When it comes to the future use in the up coming growing season, farmers need certainty in order to accurately plan their seeding decisions. 

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